Monday, February 24, 2014

The Journey versus The Destination

Reading Touching My Father's Soul I felt like I was reading about a personal journey rather than an adventure narrative. This was the result of the first third of the book detailing Norgay’s life and personal preparations and Norgay’s focus on religious and spiritual life.  That is not to say that this book is any less of an adventure narrative than the other books we have read this year, only that I have an expectation that adventure narratives will be focused primarily on the action itself.
Throughout this class we have been asking three main questions:
·      What can mountains do for those who climb them?
·      Why climb mountains?
·      Is climbing a dangerous mountain worth the risk?
This book clearly addressed all of these questions.  For Norgay, climbing Everest is about the journey both physical and spiritual rather than the summit. Unlike other readings, which have primarily viewed the landscape as a means to reach the summit, Norgay reflects on the landscape in terms of how it relates to his religion and how it connects to his father.  Considering Norgay’s account it these questions are relatively easy to answer. For Norgay, climbing Mount Everest provides a connection to his father.  It helps him to better understand and connect with his father.  It also allows him to reflect on stories he shares or has heard from his father.  In this way the mountain is acting as a conduit through which Norgay can connect to his father to better understand himself.  The final question regarding risk is a little more difficult to climb.  This becomes especially clear after May 10th when Norgay and the IMAX expedition must decide if they will attempt to summit or not.  Norgay relies on his connection to Buddhism and his father to justify his decision to make an attempt at the summit.  This new, less summit focused, understanding of climbing was very refreshing. 
            Touching My Father’s Soul was also interesting in it’s recounting of the 1996 Everest Disaster.  Because Norgay was somewhat removed from the incident, but also was following what happened real time, he gives a clear recounting that feels less stressful than that of Krakauer, despite clearly being very troubled and saddened by the events. He is also able to analyze what happened during the ascent and the rescue and acknowledge potential criticisms without blaming anyone of impure intentions or gross negligence. Most importantly, I felt that Norgay did a better job of acknowledging the amazing effort that Sherpas and climbers put into the rescue attempts.

            Overall, Norgay’s narrative has been the most distinct and possibly most interesting adventure narrative we have read this semester. Norgay provides a view of mountain climbing that differs significantly from the narratives of western climbers. I was especially drawn in by Norgay’s focus on the experience of the climb over reaching the summit.

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